The NHL and the St. Louis Blues are in a very tough spot at the moment. While there should still be a culmination to the season, the regular season is probably too much to ask.
The St. Louis Blues, the NHL and the entire sports world is caught between a rock and a hard place right now due to the virus pandemic. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, are without work because games are not being played.
We have often wondered how important sports really were since, in the end, it is just a game. However, now we see how big an impact it has.
People don’t have jobs, whether secondary or their main source of income. Fans are left trying to fill the void. That might not be as important as lost income, but it does affect people’s moods and even their outlook on life and the world.
Now, before we really get into this, and if you’ve made it this far without just X-ing the window out and complaining on social media, let me say I still want a finish to the overall season. Starting immediately with the playoffs just seems like the better deal.
Of course, all of that would be dependent on this wave of semi-panic going away so sports could actually resume. That’s still a big if right now.
I’m not the first one to present the idea of shutting down the rest of the regular season. ESPN’s Gret Wyshynski put it out there in his blog.
One of the biggest reasons to shut the season down is actually an economic one, though not for the teams. There are some teams (Boston and Buffalo were the ones named in Wyshynski’s piece) not paying their seasonal employees until they know games are canceled.
We can call this cold or callous is we want, but they are trying not to double-dip. Their fear, though not expressly stated, would be to pay these employees for missed games now and then have to pay them again if these regular season games are played.
It’s great the NHL wants to end the season in the most fair way possible. Those people need to get paid now though.
And season ticket holders want to know what is going on with their money too. Anyone who has dealt with pro teams on any level knows they will not willingly give up money already spent if they don’t have to. However, there are people that need that money. The normal argument against refunds is people already spent it, so they had money to spend. That was true when the payment was made, but people bought those tickets when they had disposable income and that is something that could be drying up quickly.
I realize that money is on the line for all involved. In the past I have been on teams’ side because a team like the Blues needs every penny since they don’t have owners with unlimited resources. The NHL is not poor by any means, but they also don’t have money just flowing in like the NFL.
A conservative estimate, from a source on the players’ side, indicated that upward of $100 million is on the line if the NHL doesn’t finish the regular season. I don’t believe the league or its teams have insurance that covers canceled games. – Greg Wyshynski, ESPN
As Wyshynski points out, how much money is the league going to actually recoup with their regular season games anyway? Sure, Blues fans would likely flock back to Enterprise Center as soon as a puck was going to be dropped.
However, there are enough teams out of the playoff race to where they might not have anyone show up. The fear of crowds is going to linger long after this has been said to be over. So, are Detroit Red Wings fans, Ottawa fans or New Jersey Devils fans going to rush back through turnstiles for a handful of regular season games just to see their team get stomped?
Plus, adding those regular season games in – the Blues have 11 – costs valuable time, which is something restarting leagues just won’t have. Things would be even worse with regular season games, which some theorized could push the Cup Final into September. The NHL has been saying they see more building availability in the summer, but even if you only play into August then the timelines just get really messed with.
If the 2020-21 season got pushed back to November, in theory the Stanley Cup champion and runner up would have their normal rest time. However, non-playoff teams would have been idle for seven to eight months. Plus, how do you eventually get the season timeline back on track without condensing the schedule? The league has already committed to a full 2020-21 season, so you’re either shortening the 2021 offseason or pushing the start of the 2021-22 season back into late October or November again.
Unfortunately, as Wyshynski also points out, none of this is truly up to the NHL. They can declare their league and their players all healthy and virus free, but if San Jose still cannot play home games due to a state ban, but St. Louis can play, that’s just one more hurdle to jump for game schedules. If New York is still on lockdown but Minnesota is not, what is the NHL supposed to do?
There are no perfect answers here. There is no truly fair way to do this.
I circle back to a piece written about simply starting the playoffs with the standings as they are. As a hockey fan, I would feel bad for teams on the bubble, but this is a one-time circumstance. We would just have to treat it like the NCAA Tournament, let teams have their snub arguments and move on.
There just does not seem to be enough benefit to holding onto the hope of regular season games at this point. It would benefit a few, some financially and some via extra points gained, but not enough to have a gigantic impact at this point.
We all want to see the Stanley Cup handed out to a deserving champion, not decided by regular season points and if it is safe to do so. Playing a few regular season games, even if teams are losing money without them, just causes too many issues.
Canceling does come with issues, such as contractual problems with sponsors. They can have their money back after the fans though.
The NHL should just cancel their remaining home games, cut losses and focus on a postseason format. The way things are going, we might be fortunate to even get that, but at least it would be a more fair end to what was shaping up to be a really fun year with tons of possibilities. You could make a strong case for half a dozen to double-digit numbers of teams having a chance for the Cup. However, the playoffs need to be the remaining focus, not trying to scramble for a few dollars with games fans might not even show up to.